Saturday, April 26, 2008

"The Stranger Game"

This is just one of several films from the “relative or houseguest secretly plans to rip apart the family and do us harm” genre. Sometimes it’s a step-parent (who could forget Terry O’Quinn as “The Stepfather?”), sometimes a tutor (Shannon Tweed feeling a bit scorned), sometimes a live-in health care professional (Lisa Zane, awfully irate with her job as “The Nurse”). And of course, sometimes it’s a nanny.

In fact, it’s often a nanny. So much so that the “evil nanny” genre can basically be called a sub-genre of the “relative or houseguest secretly plans to rip apart the family and do us harm” genre. Noted entries in the “evil nanny” sub-genre include “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” (of course) and “The Perfect Nanny.”

Now comes 2006’s “The Stranger Game” with its own evil nanny, but this time with a twist: this time it’s a male nanny. BUT... even that’s not a new twist, as evidenced by Hulk Hogan’s turn 13 years earlier as “Mr. Nanny.” Except Hulk was a benevolent nanny, not a malevolent one menacing the family of Mimi Rogers.

Mimi Rogers is someone the Phantom likes to refer to as a “utility actress.” Like utility players in baseball who can play any position, utility actresses are those who can play any role (and apropos of nothing, a lot of them seem to be brunette as well – in addition to Mimi, consider actresses like Dana Delany and Christine Lahti). Talented women who can a play devoted wife or a devious mistress; an evil boss or a conscientious employee, a totally rational person or a completely unhinged one.

The rest of the cast is what the Phantom refers to as “TV actors.” These are folks who spend a lot of time on episodic TV shows, sometimes as a leading or recurring character but mostly as guest star. They usually supplement those roles by appearing in TV movies like this one. And they are often Canadian like this movie’s supporting stars, David Orth and Sonya Salomaa. The Phantom doesn’t know a great deal about these two, but suspects that even they have small, loyal cadres of followers.

The “been there, done that” quality that the plot descriptions hint at is confirmed by Richard Sheib in his review on the Science Fiction, Horror & Fantasy Film Review website. One word from his review sticks out above the others: “predictable.”

Then again, trading in originality for exploitive thrills, no matter how derivative, seems to be a hallmark of the movies Channel 7 runs in their weekend late movie time slot… making “The Stranger Game” a prime example of a Late Nite Landfill movie.

The Phantom couldn’t find a trailer or even video clips for this one, so you’ll have to settle for some stills instead. There’s action aplenty... as well as a non-recommened misuse of a nail gun... in the following shots. Feel free to create your own captions or dialogue if you want. Maybe even print these out, staple them together and start flipping the pages. Then you can pretend it’s an actual trailer with moving images:




over the top

Or you can watch the entire film on WABC-TV Channel 7 on Sunday, April 27th at 11:35 PM... if you dare!

"The Enemy"

This Saturday night, Channel 7 is running what the Phantom likes to call a “hybrid film”: one of those films that tries to combine several genres. In the case of “The Enemy,” those genres are:

• The military action film (see my post on “Freedom Strike” for other examples)
• The “uh-oh I made a boo-boo and it’s my moral responsibility to fix it” film, like this film or that film.
• The “official we’ll send in to help you will be of the opposite gender so you can conveniently fall in love” film. Happens all the time to folks like Tom Cruise and Mike Myers.

When enough of the right elements are in place (good director, good screenplay, good cast), a “hybrid film” can actually be pulled off with beautiful results (for example: “His Kind of Woman” – part violent film noir, part exotic locale romance, part satirical comedy).

Based on the trailer, what I’ve read about this film, and the folks involved, I doubt “the Enemy” yields the same beautiful results.

In this film, a chemist who once created a bio-toxin disappears and it’s up to his son and a CIA agent to both rescue the father and create an antidote to the poison before madmen use it.

Personally, I think they’d all have an easier go of it if they just called ”Captain America” in, but that’s another movie.

So on to the cast. You’ve got Luke Perry as the hero, a long way from the streets of ”Beverly Hills 90201” (this film was shot in Germany – doubling for Quebec!!!); and Olivia d’Abo, well beyond the wonder years of her career. But the supporting cast is much more interesting. Start with one of the Bonds, Sir Roger Moore, who has become kind of a self-parody in recent years but is so good-natured about it you enjoy being in on the joke. Tony-award winning Tom Conti has been a steady presence in films since the1960s. German actor Horst Bucholz is probably most noted for his role as Chico, the Mexican youth eager to be a gunman in the classic western, ”The Magnificent Seven.”

There are a group of fine people out there in internet-land who meticulously study films just to see if they can spot mistakes, then post those goofs on the Internet Movie Database. Well, thanks to those anonymous gaff-gawkers, you can read all about “The Enemy”’s flubs here.

Scott Weinberg over at the Apollo Movie Guide website gives a review of this film that confirms the film is exactly what the Phantom expected from the trailer. You can read it by clicking here. Or simply go by this single sentence from the review, which seems to sum it all up:

“For fans of movies you can talk through and still follow perfectly, “The Enemy” is worth a look.”

View the trailer here:

Or watch the entire film on WABC-TV Channel 7 on Saturday, April 26th at 11:35 PM… if you dare!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Stranded" and "These Girls" (aka "The Bring on the Bikinis Weekend")

Look, let’s get one thing straight: the Phantom of the Landfill appreciates girls in bikinis as much as the next Phantom. But I’d rather see them at the local beach, instead of stuck in lousy movies with terrible screenplays, saddled with ridiculous dialogue. You know, as real people capable of intelligence, instead of just eye candy used to prop up dubious “entertainment.”

This weekend, the programmers at WABC-TV Channel 7 in New York appear to have a bit of “spring fever,” as they couldn’t resist giving us not one but two films featuring bikini-clad beauties.

And that is why, dear Phantom phans, you are getting two posts combined into one this week.

Let’s start with Saturday’s film. It’s called “Stranded.” It features two stars with pretty large followings: Erica Durance, aka Lois Lane from the ”Smallville” TV series; and Carlos Ponce, international star of tele-novellas and a pop-singing sensation.

In this one, a bride-to-be’s bridesmaids start disappearing one-by-one during her bachelorette party in the Carribean. Sounds like an overused plot that is probably full of clichés, but at least the girls look engaging instead of annoying.

I couldn’t find a trailer for this, but a person or persons called ”Reign of Terror” put together a nifty music video tribute to this movie on MySpace. Watch it here:

Or view the entire movie on WABC-TV Channel 7 at 11:35 PM on Saturday, April 19th… if you dare!

Now, onto our second movie, “These Girls.”

This time the girls look annoying instead of engaging.

But it’s really worse than that.

It’s hard to believe, but based on the trailer, this film is about three underage girls (ages 16 and 17, according to user comments on from people who have seen the movie) making a pact to share the duties of being the “hunk next door’s” baby sitter… and oh, so much more.

Yes, it’s true. This film promotes:

• Adultery
• Statutory rape
• Parental irresponsibility
• Promiscuous/casual sex
• Blackmail

...all this, served up under the guise of being a "lighthearted romantic comedy."

The only redeeming thing I can mention here is that the actresses portraying the girls were really all in their late 20’s when this was made. Small consolation, I realize.

I don’t know who thought this would be a good idea for a film. And speaking of “ideas,” I’m guessing the object of the title girls’ lustful conquests, David Boreanaz (now a big star in ”Bones”) wishes Channel 7 never got the idea to air it, either.

I’m actually encouraging you NOT to watch this trailer, but if you must, view it here:

I’d also like to encourage you to do whatever you can to avoid watching the entire film airing on WABC-TV Channel 7 at 11:35 PM on Sunday, April 20th, too.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Kill Me Later"

Selma Blair has the lead role in this film.

This movie actually has a very interesting premise: a thief takes a bank teller hostage just before she attempts to commit suicide. But...

Selma Blair has the lead role in this film.

The trailer for this features one of the funniest review claims I’ve ever read: “In the tradition of ‘Out of Sight.’ and ‘Run, Lola Run.’” is the snippet culled from a Variety review. I shouldn’t be surprised, as this same critic actually gave a bad review to “The Limey,” a thriller with depth that actually IS reminiscent of “Out of Sight” and “Run, Lola Run.” As well it should be, given that both it and “Out of Sight” were directed by Oscar® winner Steven Soderbergh.
In fact, all three are very fine films indeed. But I see nothing in “Kill Me Later”’s trailer to lead me to believe it will even come close to being as good as those films. Because...

Selma Blair has the lead role in this film.

Now I know she has her fans. She has a certain appeal to some. Some women like and relate to her as the put-upon “best friend” she often plays. Some men think she’s cute. I’ve found her serviceable at best and bland at worst… and alas, the bits pulled from this trailer lead me to believe it’s the “bland” Selma who showed up on the “Kill Me Later” set. Honestly, I can’t really recall too many times I’ve even seen her be serviceable. Most of the time she just appears bored. And if she’s bored, the rest of us are going to be bored watching her. Which is probably why except for this film, she’s always just a supporting player. I hate to use a cliché, but watching paint dry appears to be more engaging than watching this movie. Because...

Selma Blair has the lead role in this film.

I can’t recall ever hearing of the male lead before. His name is Max Beesley. I looked him up. Apparently he’s a big star in England, particularly on the BBC. And he has at least one cringe-worthy credit redeemable for a special Late Nite Landfill kudo: he played one of Mariah Carey’s love interests in “Glitter.” When he’s not acting, he’s a professional musician. For all I know, he may be a very talented actor-musician indeed (“Glitter” notwithstanding); I just don’t know him. He’s worked with people as diverse as George Michael, George Benson, Take That, Jamiroquai and has even played piano for the late James Brown. In other words, he’s a guy I’ve never heard of playing music with a whole bunch of folks I have heard of. Which is probably one better than the rest of the cast and the director, who are all also unknown to me. I hope none of them nodded off on the set. Because...

Selma Blair has the lead role in this film.

So, if you’re really suffering from insomnia Sunday night, I recommend you tune in to this one. Because...

Selma Blair has the lead role in this film.

Watch the trailer here:

Or view the entire movie on WABC-TV Channel 7 at 11:35 PM on Sunday, April 13th... if you dare!

"The House Next Door"

Hello there, Phantom Phans! I’m getting the Late Nite Landfill off to a later start than usual. I had planned to have this weekend’s first entry up no later than yesterday (Friday),
but encountered unforseen delays. Those delays turned out to be fortunate, as I woke up this morning to learn that Channel 7 pulled a switcheroo for tonight and is running “The House Next Door” instead of the originally scheduled “P.U.N.K.S.” Which is really too bad because I had a great post prepared on how I think Henry Winkler is one of the most underrated comic talents of all time. Perhaps another time...

In the meantime, back to the film at hand. “The House Next Door” looks like a strange hybrid between a Lifetime-style “family crisis” movie and a routine slasher flick. It’s title is certainly evocative of both – there actually IS a Lifetime movie of the same title with Lara Flynn Boyle and Mark Paul Gosselaar, and countless horror films with the word “House” in the title. The premise is as old as the hills: a recently married couple discover disturbing, maybe even murderous secrets about their new neighbors.

Over at you can see photos of the whole movie. Which is probably quicker and less painful than actually watching the film itself.

Based on the photos, there seems to be an awful lot of goofy smiling going on in this movie. That and Sean Young not looking so much like the Sean Young you remember (amazing, because I don’t think she ever had plastic surgery). whereas Theresa Russell just looks like an older version of herself. Which isn’t necessarily to say Sean Young looks bad; just that I whizzed by her photo before realizing it was her. But those are just the still photos – in the trailer she looks like herself again. Go figure.

Lead actress A.J. Cook was about 23, 24 years old when she made this film but looks like a 15-year old high school student, not a newlywed. Which is probably the reason some real veterans were cast in support. A balanced cast can often mean everything when all you’ve got is an overdone premise and a mediocre script. In this case, it appears the weight of the film is carried by the seasoned actors. Among them are two women known for playing both victims and femme fatales.

Theresa Russell has long been a favorite of the Phantom. Few actresses of the last 25 years combine the sultry with the dangerous as well as Russell, whose “Black Widow”
role is a veritable master class on how to play a viperous vixen.

Sean Young is probably better known for things that did (and didn’t) happen to her while off the movie set. There are three rather infamous examples. The first being the time she crashed the set of ”Batman” and confronted Tim Burton and Michael Keaton while wearing a Catwoman costume, a failed attempt to be cast in the sequel (as part of her doomed-to-failure effort she also showed up on a TV talk show wearing the same outfit). Another example was her tumultuous relationship with actor James Woods and the bizarre (and alleged) behavior he accused her of. Last but not least was her recent outburst at the Director’s Guild awards. She followed up this sad incident up by checking herself into rehab, admitting to a long battle with alcoholism.

I’ve always thought she was an underrated talent, with a unique, unconventional beauty. In a world where pretty actresses are often cookie-cutter, one after another coming off the assembly line, she’s been a refreshing presence in the last 25 years or so of movies she's appeared in. And not just in thrillers – she has a knack for comedy, too as no less an authority than comedian-director Carl Reiner recently attested. Perhaps Young would have fared better in the 1940s and 1950s, when actresses with distinct looks and personalities often got as many roles as the vivacious beauty queens. Both she and Russell probably would have been much-employed during film noir’s 1940s through mid ‘50s heyday.

Rounding out the veterans are Frederick Forrest and James Russo. Forrest won a best supporting Oscar for “The Rose,” a movie whose Bette Midler title song holds a special place with other movie songs that are among the Phantom’s most-hated of all time. Others include Celine Dione’s “My Heart Will Go On” from “Ttanic,” Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” from “The Bodyguard”
and Bette Midler’s other anguish-inducing anthem, “The Wind Beneath My Wings” from “Beaches.” Thank goodness the great punk-pop band A New Found Glory exists to remake these dreadful songs into super-fast sing-alongs on their highly recommended “From the Screen to Your Stereo” releases. As for James Russo, he is another of those character actors who always seems to be working, with a long list of credits on view at his listing, most notably ”Donnie Brasco.”

The movie is directed by John Travolta’s actor-writer-producer-director brother Joey. Like many siblings-of-the-more-famous, Joey has often been the butt of many jokes, but I actually have a lot of respect for him due to his work with autistic actors, which you can read about here.

View the trailer here:

Or watch the entire movie on WABC-TV Channel 7 at 11:35 PM on Saturday, April 12th... if you dare!

Friday, April 4, 2008

“Blood Vows: The Story of a Mafia Wife”

Well, it looks like I didn’t have to wait to post this one after all – Channel 7 finally announced what they’re showing Sunday night... lucky us!

I only have an extremely short promo clip for this one, so there’s not much I can comment on (other than I have seen bits of this movie before and it’s suitably over-the-top cheese... of the grated parmesan variety)!

Let’s face it – it’s Melissa Gilbert, all-growed-up and in an early non-”Little House on the Prairie” role, marrying a guy who turns out to be a mafia thug. What more do you need to know? That’s either going to sweeten or sour the deal for you right there.

Okay, I know, you want me to come clean with the facts, so I’ll give them to you straight up.

* As we’ve discussed before, Channel 7 seems obsessed with littering the Late Nite Landfill with mob movies. Witness the recent airings of “Under Hellgate Bridge,” “Amongst Friends,” and “A Good Night to Die.”

* Most of the mob films we’ve covered here contain some sort of “nod” to an earlier classic in the genre – usually in the form of a cast member from some better film. Here, we get Talia Shire, from well, the “godfather” of all modern gangster movies, “The Godfather” (...and its sequels, directed by her brother Francis Ford Coppola)

* It was a TV movie for NBC
that originally aired in January, 1987. That’s over 21 years ago, fans! Easily the oldest movie we’ve excavated from the Landfill so far.

* The mobster is played by Joe Penny of ”Jake & the Fatman” fame. I’ve always been ambivalent toward Penny, but Fatman William Conrad sure was a terrific narrator for Rocky & Bullwinkle!

View the promo clip here:

Or watch the entire movie on WABC-TV Channel 7 on Sunday, April 6th at 11:35 PM… if you dare!


Last weekend, I got tired of waiting for Channel 7 to announce what movie they would show on Sunday night’s ”Late Movie.”
I guessed that perhaps it would be the same movie their sister station was running
that night... but I was wrong!
Well, I won’t get fooled again.
This time, I’ll wait…
even until Sunday morning
if I have to. So Stay tuned...


I love Ray Liotta. He’s one of my favorites. He’s been in everything from simply dreadful flicks to movie masterpieces… and everything in between!

My favorite Liotta performances have to be as a no-holds-barred detective in “Narc,” Melanie Griffith’s completely-out-of-his-gourd boyfriend in “Something Wild,” and of course, wiseguy Henry Hill in the legendary “Goodfellas.”

But my all-time favorite Liotta role doesn’t come from a movie… and alas, it’s one I couldn’t find a clip for. I’m speaking of the time he played… himself! Well, okay, maybe not his “real” self, but a bizarro
version totally obsessed with Christmas
for a guest-stint on the TV sitcom, “Just Shoot Me.”

Anyway, here we have a movie from the “corrupt cops” genre. It’s directed by Danny Cannon, who made the acclaimed “Young Americans” (and the Bjork video that went along with it), then went on to helm the poorly-received comic book adaptation “Judge Dredd”
with Sly Stallone,
the slasher sequel “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” and ultimately filled up his career with multiple episodes of the multiple C.S.I. shows.

This actual has a pretty solid cast
filled with faces you know (including Anthony Lapaglia, who like Liotta is another reliable actor always turning in good performances), and based on the trailer may be a worthy time passer for all I know. Decide for yourself…

View the trailer here:

Or watch the entire movie on WABC-TV Channel 7 in New York on Saturday, April 5th at 11:35 PM… if you dare!

The "new & improved" Late Nite Landfill!

Welcome to the new & improved “Late Nite Landfill”... now enhanced with HTML coding!

That’s right folks, the Phantom has discovered HTML coding. Well, actually, the Phantom’s better half (aka “The Phantomess”) clued her “clueless” Phantom into just how HTML coding works. So…

Now, whenever you see a word that’s both BOLD
type, click on that word and you’ll be led to bodacious bonus content like groovy
graphics, marvelous
music, amazing animals, radical
rarities, intriguing
info and (additional) tantalizing

This special feature will appear on all phuture Phantom pheatures… and the Phantom is so nuts
that he’s actually going backwards and applying HTML coding to all his previous posts… keep checking to see which past posts I’ve updated (those on the mailing list will be notified each time). So far I’ve updated last weekend’s posts for "Freedom Strike,"
"One Hell of a Guy (MAYBE...),"
and "Ground Control."

Well, what are you waiting for?... Start clicking!